Friday lunchtime is the gateway to the weekend. Basically the week is all but done and it’s time to greet the weekend. Most Fridays this means a celebratory lunch of fish (over done), chips (soggy) and mushy peas (destined to be Monday’s “delicious and nourishing” pea and mint soup) at the office canteen. Hardly a stellar start to the weekend, but a start none the less. Sometimes however, different fare is available. Sometimes with a flex-day, it’s possible to abscond from the open plan clutches of the workplace and search for sustenance of an altogether different and much more satisfying kind. One such daring escape took Lampy and I to see Le Butcherettes…
I’d previously only encountered just one single track from Le Butcherettes through a 6 Music show where Henry Rollins stood in for the mighty Iggy Pop some time in the distant past, I’d been blown away by what I’d heard and ever since the name “Le Butcherettes” was left firmly lodged in the memory banks just in case they were to pop up in town. On arriving at Rough Trade it was clear that I was far from alone in spotting and being excited about this particular band putting in an appearance. A full cohort of “Avids” were gathered amongst a splendidly eclectic crowd richer in both “characters” and tattoos than the average Rough Trade crowd. This somewhat motley looking assembly had been drawn together by the presence of a three piece band led by vocalist/pianist/guitarist Teri Gender Bender who originally hales from Guadalajara, Mexico. Their music is wild, raw garage rock infused with Mexican rhythms coupled with challenging often darkly macabre lyrics. Recorded, insidiously catchy 80’s pop grooves lurk beneath the savagery. If you’re the kind of person that listens to music on your headphones at work, this is the kind of music you need to be really careful about… Singing along is a real danger, but the lyrics are likely to be heavily frowned upon by managers and co-workers in all but the very most enlightened of workplaces.
Le Butcherettes’ live shows are renowned for being “messy” with artificial blood and other “props” featuring heavily. This particular Friday the set lists are laminated, but the red stuff was not evident as the band took to the stage with Teri supported by blue-haired Alejandra Luna Robles on drums and Riko Rodríguez-López on bass. Teri wore a well-tailored green jumpsuit and was alone in sporting a thick band of red make up across her face just under her eyes.
Sadly with a change out of crew and kit at Rough Trade East in progress, Lampy wasn’t able to weave her magic on the lights we were treated to the house power-brick’s finest display of “Auto Settings” which translates to a stately procession through deep blue, and eye-searing pink via odd moments with a deeply unflattering greenish tinge and bursts of feature flattening red. All of which makes colour photography somewhat of a lottery as each of the RGB colour channels in the cameras sensor are maxed out in turn. I’ve learnt that if there’s time, the best tactic in this situation is usually to wait for the ambling lighting cycle to bless you with differing colours on each side of the stage and thus faces that retain features and depth when captured by the struggling electronics lurking deep within the armoured shell of my camera. Unfortunately there was no way Teri was going to let me get away with taking the leisurely approach to achieving good shot there was simply too much happening on stage!
Le Butcherettes stage show is dominated by Teri’s powerful stage presence and darkly theatrical delivery. The set starts suddenly with Teri striking an aggressive haka-like pose at the front of the stage then chanting the lyrics of her first song whilst staring glassy-eyed out above the crowd, stomping out the staccato beat of the song with her shiny red heels whilst writhing to the primal rhythms glimpsed in the spaces between foot-stomp and vitriolic lyric. The crowd was awed and completely entranced before a single drum had been struck or or guitar string had been plucked.
From this point onwards, the crowd was treated to a spectacular tornado of howling guitar and crashing drums from which Teri’s wild and siren performance drew power and shocking intensity. Within a couple of tracks Teri’s make-up was smeared across her face, her hair as wild as the animalistic, frenzied look in her eyes. A couple more songs saw her leap from the stage (no mean feat in those heels!) only to be engulfed by the crowd, a sudden and quite shocking reminder of how easily Teri’s comapct frame is masked by her towering stage presence. She singled out individual members of the crowd and spits lyrics at them at point-blank range before starting to struggle out of her green jump suit revealing the lacy red dress and exposed skin underneath screaming at people in the audience to “Take my fucking dress off!”. There are no takers. The crowd has backed off, enraptured and dumbstruck beyond some kind of invisible exclusion zone and almost all miss the moment where Lampy gamely jumped on to the stage to plug the control cable back in to the madly flickering power-brick after the bassist found the “special frequency” that causes cables to be physically rejected by the errant light (We are Scientists currently hold the record for managing this incredible feat twice in one set.). With Lampy safely back in the crowd and Teri safely back on the stage the set reached its final tumultuous crescendo all too soon leaving the crowd and the record store beyond it in a stunned, wide-eyed silence.
As the silence gave way to raucous applause Teri again descended from the stage, but this time to hug, and thank everyone in the crowd for coming to see Le Butcherettes’ performance. This was lovely and very personal way for an exhausted artist to connect with the crowd that had shared this incredibly intense and perhaps ultimately, highly cathartic performance.
Leaving Rough Trade East and stumbling out in to the early afternoon sunlight was definitely a bit of a shock after this show…
Rough Trade East 14/10/2016